I landed in Santa Barbara this afternoon. I’m here for the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, but this year decided to stay somewhere outside the hermetically perfect conference hotel. I’m about a mile up the beach, just right. My room overlooks the pool. This afternoon, I set out on foot in the deep heat (93 degrees, which still didn’t seem that hot here) just to get the lay of the land, and was seduced, as ever, by the sheer extravagance of coastal California. It’s an ordinary neighborhood in an smallish town (okay, a really expensivetown) and everywhere is that careless natural abundance. Bouganvillia pouring over a fence and scattering hot magenta petals over the sidewalk. Eucalyptus trees as wide as my car at their base, muscling the sidewalk out of the way. Jacaranda trees are in bloom, their lavender clusters as bizarre and beautiful as a tree from another planet. I walked by an open gate and smelled something sweet and hot and fainly rotten and saw a scatter of fallen oranges beneath the huge spreading branches of a tree, with dozens and dozens of oranges ready to be plucked, others molding on the ground. On the way to a welcoming party, I stopped to admire the Moreton Bay fig tree nearby State Street and took a photo with my cell phone.
After the party, I found an agreeable Indian restaurant and ate shasi panneer with hot plump raisins as big as my thumb. My task was to eat alone in a strange place without reading or taking notes, just being there, participating in the flow of life, eating and watching. And, too, being willing to be part of the moment for the room, the woman sitting by herself with a Taj Mahal, eating rice and raisins, enjoying herself.
The hotel is just far enough away from the conference place that I can walk a mile or so. Perfect.
Do you like to eat alone in restaurants? Men find it easier than women, I think. Why do you suppose that is?